Pancreatic cancer rates rise in women under 55

  • Pancreatic cancer rates are rising in young women, a new study finds.
  • Pancreatic cancer rates are 2.4% higher in young women than in young men.
  • Experts break down these new findings and how to reduce your risk.

The United States has seen an overall drop in cancer deaths (death rates have fallen steadily over the past few years), but a new study shows a worrying rise in a deadly form of cancer, pancreatic cancer. This murderous rise is observed among young women.

The study, published in the journal Gastroenterologyanalyzed data covering approximately 65% ​​of the US population of 454,611 patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer between 2001 and 2018. The researchers found that while there is a similar rate of pancreatic cancer among Americans more older, rates of the disease in women under the age of 55 increased 2.4% more than rates of pancreatic disease in men of the same age group.

The researchers included this chilling line in their finding: “There was a large split in the incidence trend between females and males aged 15-34 between 2001 and 2018 and it showed no slowing down. .”

Pancreatic cancer has a high mortality rate, with a five-year survival rate of only 11%. But why are women at greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer, and what can you do to reduce this risk? Here’s what the cancer experts have to say.

First of all, what is pancreatic cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Pancreatic cancer occurs when cells in the pancreas begin to grow out of control.

Pancreatic cancer can form from two types of pancreatic cells: exocrine cells, which create enzymes that help you digest food, and neuroendocrine cells, which make insulin to help manage your blood sugar. , according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Pancreatic cancer in exocrine cells is the most common and is usually found at an advanced stage, according to the NCI.

Why are cases of pancreatic cancer increasing among young women?

This isn’t just something the study found – doctors also noticed an increase in younger women. “We’re seeing more (of) a younger pancreatic cancer patient population than before,” says Dae Won Kim, MD, medical oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center.

The study did not specifically explore Why this is what is happening – it was just indicating an increase. However, there are some theories.

“Known risk factors for pancreatic cancer include smoking, pancreatitis, obesity, and genetic risk factors,” says Dr. Kim. “There may be several factors associated with the study results, including increased alcohol consumption among women, increased smoking initiation in early adulthood, and increased obesity.”

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 13% of adult women report heavy drinking, and nearly half of adult women in the United States report having consumed alcohol in the past of the last 30 days. The CDC notes that biological differences in body structure and chemistry lead most women to absorb more alcohol and take longer to metabolize it than men. Therefore, women are more susceptible to the long-term negative health effects of alcohol than men.

“Alcohol use is associated with most cancers,” says Anton Bilchik, MD, Ph.D., surgical oncologist and division director of general surgery at Providence Saint John’s Health Center and chief of medicine and program director gastrointestinal and hepatobiliary at Saint John’s Cancer Institute in Santa Monica, California. “A recent study suggested that no alcohol is safe and that the pancreas is particularly sensitive to the effects of alcohol.”

Nearly 42% of Americans are considered obese, a condition whose rates have been rising for years, according to CDC data. The data also shows that 12.5% ​​of American adults smoke cigarettes.

Study researchers also noted in a press release that there appears to be a particular increase in cancers of adenocarcinoma of the pancreatic head, an aggressive and deadly type of tumor, which may explain the increase. rates.

Why this drives up pancreatic cancer rates in young women, but not young men, remains to be explored, Dr. Kim says.

Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms

Early-stage pancreatic cancer often causes no symptoms, according to the ACS. However, when symptoms do appear, they can include:

  • Jaundice
  • Stomach or back pain
  • Weight loss and lack of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blood clots
  • Diabetes
  • An enlarged gallbladder or liver

How to reduce your risk of developing pancreatic cancer

Not all pancreatic cancers are preventable, Dr. Bilchik points out. However, he says, “there are preventable causes that we know of.” These can include, according to the ACS:

  • Do not smoke
  • Try to eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while limiting or avoiding red and processed meats, sugary drinks, and highly processed foods.
  • Regular exercise
  • Try to maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid consuming alcohol or limit yourself to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men

“However, further studies are needed to identify all risk factors,” says Dr. Kim. Overall, Dr Bilchik says more research needs to be done on these “worrying” findings. “These results are certainly not trivial,” he adds.

Portrait of Korin Miller

Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, health and sex, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamour, and more. She has a master’s degree from American University, lives near the beach, and hopes to one day own a teacup pig and a taco truck.

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